Several environmental and animal rights groups have blasted the National Park Service sanctioned lethal removal of hundreds of bison in the Grand Canyon scheduled this month and demanded in a letter the Department of Interior to stop that hunt, The Hill reports.
The massive bison hunt is scheduled as a means to control the allegedly expanding bison population in the region, a rare instance of hunting sanctioned by the NPS and DOI.
Though the event is not being classified as a “hunt” as hunting is forbidden in US national parks, environmentalists have warned it could set a dangerous precedent.
The lethal removal program aims to reduce the number of bison occupying the Grand Canyon’s North Rim from about 600 down to under 200 with NPS officials arguing that the rapid growth of bison population has adverse impacts on the surrounding ecosystem.
The NPS allegedly hopes to reduce trampling of Native American archaeological sites, soil erosion and water contamination.
Animal rights, including the Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy, and Animal Wellness Foundation claim that concerns about bison impacts on the ecosystem are exaggerated and more a matter of aesthetics than ecology.
They argue that this region is natural bison territory, making the animals native and noninvasive to the region and have also suggested non-lethal method to manage the population without killing the animals by using sterilization vaccine.
They also warn that If NPS ignores sterilization and opts for lethal control it will obligate the agency to kill bison for years since surviving bison will only work to reproduce more, and that will hurt the park’s image.
The organizations are also enraged by the manner in which the NPS decided to select removal volunteers, organizing a lottery in early May with the Game and Fish Department that closed after 48 hours with more than 45,000 applicants.
Only 12 skilled volunteers that met select criteria were selected. According to the NPS rules, they are permitted to bring a support crew and hunt bison that weigh over 900kg, but they must carry out any meat on foot without using motorized transport or pack animals.
They also must have the necessary permit to possess and transport the carcass from Grand Canyon National Park.
Advocacy groups say that this encourages trophy hunting of the bison though NPS asserts it’s a conservation effort meant to benefit surrounding flora and fauna.
An estimated 30 to 60 million bison roamed across much of the continent before being hunted to near-extinction in the 19th Century, being reduced to only about 400 by the late 1800s.